“What exactly IS shadow work?” I asked Jo. Her response led to a much deeper insight on the topic, which she was kind enough to put together for us here.
An Introduction to Your Shadow Self
I cannot tell you how often I get this question! It’s probably my favorite one to answer, though, since it’s something I’m massively passionate about and one of the things I find to be the most misunderstood.
In short, Shadow Work is about looking at our traumas and whatever that which we have repressed, in order to begin the healing process, grow and write new stories about ourselves.
It’s about asking yourself where in life can you take accountability and not let these things control you negatively any longer.
Shadow refers to the root cause of unhealed unresolved negative emotions we hold around childhood/generational experiences (which have grown and compounded over time).
And, Work refers to the time and effort we invest into the techniques and practices that assist us in healing our Shadows; whether it be meditation, prayer, journaling, therapy, EFT, better structure and foundation in our daily lives, movement, singing, teaching…or a combination of all these things and more!
What Are Shadow Aspects?
Shadow aspects are things we don’t share freely with others, things we are ashamed of, things we don’t like about ourselves, negative things that happened to us in the past (hurt/trauma), things we were shamed for and have since repressed.
When we look at the Shadow aspects of ourselves with love, understanding, acceptance and forgiveness we are able to truly love ourselves fully, we are able to gain new insight and perspective on these things in order to write off the old story in exchange for a new, more positive outlook on things.
Imagine for a moment that you have a gorgeous, lush garden; one that you worked REALLY hard to grow and cultivate. Say you notice some weeds growing in your garden so, naturally, you pull them up.
Well, what happens when you don’t pull weeds up by their roots? They just grow right back. Shadow work is very much the same.
You can acknowledge and take accountability for your Shadows but if you aren’t taking the ACTION to work on them and get to the ROOT of it all, and heal it, then it’s just going to keep resurfacing.
This is part of why Shadow Work is so necessary in order for us to truly love and accept ourselves unconditionally.
How Do I Do Shadow Work?
Our Shadows create blocks. And these blocks come between us and the life we want to live, like
- Between the goals and dreams we want to achieve,
- the loving and healthy relationships we want to have with ourselves and others,
- things we want to manifest in our lives, the list goes on…
The payoff of shadow work is regaining your confidence, achieving transformation, healing and learning to love yourself for who you actually are. It’s truly the ultimate act of light work, and the deepest form of Self Love.
Action is paramount because it’s what separates an idea from reality.
Step-Wise Actions To Take For Shadow Work
The first step is awareness.
When you feel triggered rather than get upset, notice what it was that triggered you. This is a golden opportunity to figure out where the trigger first started.
Instead of shutting down when the triggers arise, speak to them with empathy, kindness and compassion. Think of your past self, the one who experienced the pain or trauma, your present self can give that past version the support they needed when the experience happened.
We spend so much time waiting for others to validate our experiences that we never take the time to validate OURSELVES. It sounds crazy, but sometimes talking to your trauma and inner child like you’re talking to another person works WONDERS.
Ask why they feel afraid or angry, ask why they’re showing up now and how you can help.
The next step, or if you feel silly talking out loud, is to write.
Write down what’s coming up. Then write down what memories you have about those things, go back in time as far as you can, noting all the things that reinforced the Shadow aspect/trigger you’re working with.
Was it a thought or belief that someone else instilled in you?
Was it an action that someone else took against you or something you did to yourself/someone else?
Free write for as long as you can, I guarantee that you will begin to see those roots and patterns.
Once you’re finished with the writing exercise, look it over. Is there anyone that you can forgive even if, and especially if, it’s yourself?
Forgiveness is also an important factor in Shadow Work. Remember, forgiveness isn’t about the other person, it’s about our own peace of mind.
If you have a forgiveness list, go ahead and say it out loud if you feel called. A simple, “I forgive you” really does help.
Example of Shadow Work
Now, if your Shadow Work is around a belief, for example, you can then go in and choose to write a new belief in place of the old one. I’m going to give you an example of a Shadow Working session.
The belief is: There is never enough, don’t ask for more.
Once we have that belief written down, we’ll write out all thoughts, feelings and memories around it. Then we want to work on restructuring that belief into something positive.
So, for example, we would write: How can I see this differently?
- I choose to see that my family was trying to be protective and try to help me understand the value of hard work.
- I choose to forgive.
- To release these old stories because I know they are untrue.
- They are not my fault.
We are then able to turn those old stories and beliefs into something new, look at them from a different angle than we were looking at them before.
Tips To Keep In Mind While Doing Shadow Work
There is a lesson to be learned in all of the experiences we have been through. It’s important to remember that life happens FOR you, not TO you.
The focus and purpose of Shadow Work is healing. Healing is going to come from anyone or anywhere but inside of you, which is why putting in the work is important.
#1 – Don’t Overwhelm Yourself.
Pick one topic and write on that, then give yourself some time after the purge to get grounded and centered in your new beliefs.
#2 – Don’t Let Self-Judgement Get To You.
It’s not always easy to look through a lens of compassion or acceptance. And it’s even more difficult to take accountability but it’s something that, with practice, will completely change your perspective.
One way to be observational if you are having a hard time moving out of being emotional and self judgmental, is to dissociate from the memory – basically to see the memory as though you are watching it on a television screen. It helps us to get out of our emotions and into a less judgmental place.
#3 – Stay Aware Of Your True Power.
Remember, you are the creator of your reality. You have the power to CHOOSE. Stand in your authority; no matter how much of it you feel like you’ve lost or let go of over time, it will always belong to you and you can call it back whenever you decide.
You have control over the one thing that matters the most, yourself.
It’s important to take your time with shadow work. It’s something we continually do throughout life, and something you’ll get better and better at the more you do it.
While your emotions are important throughout this work, it’s just as important to remember not to get stuck in them, rather, focus on the NEW beliefs and emotions that are coming from the healing work that you’re doing.
Know that you are whole just as you are, even when it seems like you couldn’t possibly put the pieces back together and that you will forever be broken, you are whole just as you are. Always.